Thursday, December 30, 2010

Equipped for the Task

When God called Jeremiah to the prophetic ministry, the poor priest from Anathoth wasn't sure God had the right man. "Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young." I'm just a boy, he said, and I'm terrified of speaking in public. According to his own assessment, Jeremiah was not the prophetic type. That was a job for brave men who had the rhetorical prowess to shout down the naysayers and counter the critics. When Jeremiah looked in the mirror, he saw a little boy with a slow tongue. He didn't have what it takes to be a prophet.

God, however, saw things quite differently. "Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them. Today I have made you a fortified city, an iron pillar and a bronze wall to stand against the whole land--against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests and the people of the land." God looked into the heart of Jeremiah, where lay his deepest void and most humiliating lack, and said to him, "You are not a boy. You are a fortified city, an iron pillar, a bronze wall; and you will stand against this entire nation!" Jeremiah looked at himself and saw youthful weakness, but God looked at him and said, "Strength and power!", and, behold, it was!

God called Jeremiah to a task that required a new name, a new identity--strength where there was weakness, fullness where there was void. God then equipped Jeremiah for the task by speaking into his void and weakness. God saw that which was not and called it into being. "Today I have made you a fortified city..."

You need a new name from God. Your void is crippling you, and you cannot fulfill his calling on your life until you hear that new name. The old names, the names you have given yourself or others have given you out of evil intent, are holding you back from God's plan for your life. The old names have to die, and the new name must come to life. God wants to speak his fulness into your void, his strength into your weakness, his abundance into your lack. God sees you as you are not, calls out "Strength and power! Discipline and character! Love and forgiveness!" and, behold, it is!

Your new name--your new identity--are manifested through the presence of God in your life. This presence is available only because Jesus has made it so through the power of the Holy Spirit. You cannot receive this new name if your are proud, selfish, or resistant. It will not come until you bend your heart to God. Only be near him, and he will equip you for the difficult task to which he has called you.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Take On Tressel, TP, et. al.

By now you've probably heard about the 5 star OSU football players who sold various trophies and game-used equipment. This occurred almost two years ago, but the NCAA has just now found out about it and laid down the punishment. The facts of the case are these:
  • 5 players (including Terrell Pryor, Devier Posey, Dan Herron, and Mike Adams) sold various trophies, including gold pants (for beating Michigan) and Big Ten championship rings, and game-used equipment for a total of a little over $7,000.
  • Some players also received discounts on tattoos.
  • When the football program became aware of what transpired, they self-reported to the NCAA.
  • There was some form of internal, team punishment levied against the players.
  • The players have been ordered to return the money they made from the sale of these items and give it to charity.
  • The players have been suspended for the first 5 games of the 2011 season, but are eligible for the Sugar Bowl.
So those are the facts. $7,000. All of which must be repaid. A total of 25 missed games.

These five players are all juniors, and could decide to enter the NFL Draft rather than miss almost half of their senior season. However, with the labor unrest in the NFL, and their uncertain draft value, that is a risky proposition.

There are several things that bother me about this whole situation. First of all, why are these guys selling their gold pants and Big Ten championship rings? Those are items that you can't really put a price on, and it hurts me, as a part of the Buckeye nation and OSU alum, that they would treat our football tradition with such contempt. But I also know what it's like to need money, so I understand why a person might sell such things. I'm not excusing it, I'm just saying I get it.

Secondly, these five players have been suspended a combined 25 games for selling items that "almost" belonged to them for a total of about $7,000. Meanwhile, Cameron Newton's father Cecil tires to sell his son's football services to various schools in the SEC for $180,000 and, for these sins, Cameron Newton receives the Heisman Trophy and a trip to the National Championship Game. Keep in mind that the NCAA, according to its own rules, does not distinguish between a student-athlete and his or her parents, even in the recruiting process. The NCAA's actions are hypocritical at best, utterly corrupt at worst. As many have already said, they are clearly making up the rules as they go along.

Thirdly, a lot of Buckeye fans are calling for these five players to be suspended for the Sugar Bowl and even for Jim Tressel to resign. Seriously? Enough with the sanctimony. They've been punished three times over for what is not a criminal action, but rather a violation of NCAA rules. There were no boosters involved. There were no agents. These were five guys selling stuff they thought they owned to, according to multiple sources, help their families in the worst economy of their short lifetimes. Let me say this again: this was a NCAA rules violation, not a crime. No one can be arrested for this. The punishment they have already received is severe, and some of you want them punished even more? I put it to you that your sanctimonious calls for increased punishment (and even Jim Tressel's job!) is nothing more than a mask for your sense of vengeance, which only rears its head because you have an idolized view of Ohio State football. You expect more character out of these 18 and 21 year old kids than you do from yourself. Enough. You're being a hypocrite. They've been punished enough, and I would even say unfairly, given the NCAA's history of inconsistency on rules enforcement.

Jim Tressel should keep his job. These five players should play in the Sugar Bowl, and not be suspended any games at all. They are paying back all of the money, after all. They have clearly expressed their remorse, and tOSU has done it's due diligence to report everything to the NCAA. They are, in my opinion, above reproach. And I believe, given the circumstances involved, these five players should receive some grace. And I would say that even if they were Michigan athletes.

God Who Wants To Father

This is the time of year when we celebrate how God sent his Son into the world, to become just like us in order to save us. This, of course, implies that God is a parent of some kind--and we see, from Scripture, that, while he is supersexual (that is, beyond sexuality), he reveals himself as Father and Husband--consistently male. (There are also instances where God reveals himself as motherly, but the male descriptors are far more common.)

Does this mean that being male is inherently better? Of course not, for God created both men and women in his image. Neither is qualitatively better than the other. Because God is supersexual, all gender is found in him, and yet he cannot be sexualized. Had God revealed himself as female, as a Goddess, there is little doubt that he would have become sexualized and objectified like the goddesses of other ancient cultures.

But I also believe that God revealed himself primarily as Father because there is one very important thing that only a father can do, and that is to call the child into true personhood. It is from the father's voice that we hear our name, our identity. There are myriad things that only the mother can do, but as a child moves into adolescence and young adulthood, they are waiting to hear the masculine voice saying, "You are a man", or, "You are a woman".

I'm convinced that the greatest threat to our culture is missing fathers, and fatherlessness has reached epidemic proportions. We have tried to make do without dads, but we simply cannot. Humans aren't built that way. The government has been subsidizing fatherlessness among the poor classes for decades, but crime and destitution have only increased. Money is no substitute for the masculine voice.

But God wants to do something about this. He wants to father this generation of fatherless souls. As always, he wants to enact his plan through people. God wants to father this lost generation, and he wants to do it by raising up men to be the husbands and fathers he has called them to be. We have a generation of children--many of them fully grown and into their 30s and 40s--who have been unable to move beyond adolescence because they had no father to tell them who they are. God wants to tell these people who they are; he wants to initiate them into full personhood, and he wants to do it in partnership with the men of the church.

Don't be upset that I'm not issuing a call to women, here. It's not the women who have fallen asleep; it's not the women who have disappeared. The women have not been negligent, but the men have. Men, this world needs you, desperately. You need to wake up. You need to engage. Don't be distracted anymore; don't let the world lull you to sleep. God has a task for you, and it's going to take everything you've got and then some. The world is falling apart, and God is asking you to help him put it back together. In the words of Homer Simpson, "Heroism is calling. Will you accept the charges?"

Thursday, December 23, 2010

God's Aching Heart

I was reading Jeremiah 2 this morning, and like you find in so much of what the prophets wrote, we see God's heart, wounded and broken by Israel.
What fault did your fathers find in me,
that they strayed so far from me?
You can hear the hurt in his voice. He had loved Israel; he had brought them out of slavery in Egypt, through the trials of the desert, and finally into a land of their own. And they deserted him. They abandoned him. "It's no use!" Israel declared, "I love foreign gods, and I must go after them." Again and again, Israel broke God's heart.

If I were God, there would only be so much of this that I could take before I completely shut myself off from humanity. But God didn't do that. Instead, he opened his heart up all the way, to everyone! In Christ, God has opened the doors of the kingdom to everyone, and by doing that he opened his heart to be hurt and betrayed at a rate far beyond what Israel had ever done.

How many billions and billions of times has God been betrayed since then? If everyone who has ever believed has betrayed God as much as I have, that is an unfathomable amount of heartache. Yet he has not become cynical. His heart has not become hard. Before Jesus came it was just Israel, just one people group; now it's the whole world to whom God has opened his heart. We have wounded him time and time again, yet still the doors of his heart are open wide. Still he loves each new generation.

This is remarkable. So much hurt. So much betrayal. So little love returned. So little obedience. And yet he continues to love as he has from the beginning. What an amazing God we have!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Slumbering Masculinity

Yesterday I posted some thoughts about men and changing the world that garnered some acceptance and some, shall we say, disagreement. Today I'd like to elaborate a bit by sharing some thoughts from a wonderful little book called Crisis in Masculinity by Leanne Payne. I strongly urge you to pick up this book; it is excellent.

Ms. Payne identifies the crisis in masculinity today by first looking to the past:
Men, affirmed as men by their fathers and the men of the community, were by and large free to mature as husbands, fathers, and leaders. In secure possession of their gender identity, the great majority of men moved from the chest, as it were, out of hearts freed from the legalisms of childhood, the narcissisms of adolescence, or the perfectionisms of an adulthood spent futilely seeking self-accecptance (or even the affirmation of parents). Now, however, what was once the exceptional psychogenic factor has become, unhappily, a ruling feature of the culture at large. ...Generally speaking, we now have a generation of sons whose fathers, for several generations back, have been unaffirmed as men. The father who is unaffirmed in his own masculinity cannot adequately affirm the son in his.
So what are the consequences for a man of being unaffirmed in his masculinity?
He will be unable to accept himself. Men who are unable to fully accept themselves lose to one degree or another the power to act as father, husband, and leader. In short, in at least some part of their personalities they remain immature and become increasingly passive and unable creatively to initiate the changes needed to lift themselves and their families out of the inevitable quagmires of life. The power is within them to do so. The masculine qualities and gifts are there, but they have not been "affirmed" into life.
The trouble with our culture today is that the vast majority of men are walking around with a slumbering masculinity. It has not been awakened. It has not come to life. Why? Because the sins of the fathers are passed down to their children to the third and fourth generations. Men with slumbering, unaffirmed masculinity cannot awaken or affirm the masculinity in their sons; unfortunately, neither can their mothers.
It is the father (or father substitute) who affirms sons and daughters in their sexual identity and therefore--because gender identity is a vital part of personhood itself--as persons. ...The masculine within is called forth and blessed by the masculine without. It is thereby commissioned to be, to grow, and to mature.
...At puberty and adolescence we are listening for the masculine voice. It is the strong, masculine love and affirmation coming through that voice that convinces us that we are truly and finally separate from our mothers. We were born not knowing ourselves as separate from her. If we came to a sense of well-being or of being at all, it was through her love--or that of a good mother substitute. Her eyes, as we nestled in her arms, became the umbilical cord, the life-giving conduit of love through which our sense of being was affirmed, and we began to understand that we were separate and worthy entities in our own right. In other words, we slowly began the arduous task of separating our identity from hers.
The crisis in masculinity consists in the fact that this separation and affirmation of identity is not happening today. We do not come out of puberty and adolescence affirmed as persons. ...The step of self-acceptance ideally comes just after puberty. The key to taking this step, on the ordinary human level, lies in the love and affirmation of a whole father.
Mothers nurture their children to adolescence; fathers guide them through adolescence into adulthood. Our society has mothers aplenty, and thank God for them, but the fathers are few. Without fathers, boys and girls cannot become men and women.
We cannot pass on to the next generation what we do not ourselves possess. Unaffirmed men are unable adequately to affirm their own sons and daughters as male and female and therefore as persons. Until men are once again functioning in this vital capacity, women will continue to attempt to fill the gap in vain, and will continue to verbalize their pain and confusion.
There is, in short, an overwhelming amount of gender confusion in great numbers of men today. When men are healed, the pathway for the wholeness of women will be opened. If, however, men do not begin to find themselves as men, the same gender confusion, and on the same scale, will soon cloud the deep mind of women as well.
If you want to change the world, change the men. It's already happened, friends.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

If You Want to Change the World...

...Change the men. If you want to change the world, change the men who run it, work it, till it, and move it.

If you want to create a consumeristic society, delight men's eyes with pornography and children's games, forcing them to remain in a perpetual state of arrested development of juvenile maturity and interests. These grown boys will have no idea how to produce goods or create anything of quality; they will only know how to buy, use, and throw away.

If you want to create a ruthless society, abuse the men when they are boys and teach them that only the strong, heartless, cruel ones survive and get to the top of the food chain.

If you want to create a tolerant society, emasculate the men and shame them into neglecting their strength by telling stories of abuse and bullying. Use education to turn little boys into little girls and create a generation of feminized males that is more in touch with their emotions and more interested in the flighty fair of fashion culture than with strength, honor, and accountability.

If you want to change the world, change the men. That's the truth, and it's time for the church to stop ignoring it. It's time for the church to stop coddling men and idolizing women. God desperately wants to be the Father this generation so desperately needs, but he needs the church to step up and start producing men--real men--who build families where wives and children flourish, businesses where employees excel, governments where justice prevails. God will Father this fatherless generation through godly fathers raised up by the church.

If you want to change the world, change the men. Men, if you want to change the world, be changed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Featherless Biped

Beginning last Thursday night, a member of my family got sick with the stomach flu each night. Cyrus was first, then Zeke, Breena, Eisley, and finally me. But now the sickies are gone, and there is much rejoicing in the Holt household.

As a way of celebrating my recovery, I bought myself a book: Run with the Horses by Eugene Peterson. The book title is taken from a passage in Jeremiah that absolutely rocked my world earlier this year. If you haven't read Peterson, I highly recommend him to you. His book, Under the Unpredictable Plant, was given to me at a major crossroads in my life, and his words greatly helped me to take the best road. I hope that, in this season of life, his words will be of equal encouragement to me.

Peterson's words at the end of the first chapter absolutely sliced me in half. Read this:
It is easier to define oneself minimally ("a featherless biped") and live securely within that definition than to be defined maximally ("little less than God") and live adventurously in that reality.
I know, right?! It's so much easier (and safer) to set expectations for myself so low that, regardless of what happens, I will always meet those expectations. It's easier to see myself as a featherless biped, a mere cosmic accident, then to define myself as "little less than God", created by him in his image, and being remade by him into the image of his son, Jesus Christ. The former definition offers safety, but the latter definition offers adventure. The former will be worn out walking with men, but the latter will outrun the horses, or die trying.

How are you defining yourself? Do you define yourself minimally, as though you were nothing more than a featherless biped? Or do you dare to define yourself maximally, as the Bible defines you, being "little less than God", created in his image and being remade into his likeness? Your self-perception has no relevance on reality, because the truth about you is that you are made to live adventurously in the reality that you have been created in God's image.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sexual Wholeness

I just read an article over at the Jesus Creed that outlines the ways in which sex traffickers target sporting events for prostitution. This isn't news to me because, through our young adults ministry, we've been getting involved in the issues of human trafficking and, thanks to Dan Clark and doma, we've been educated on the issue. Every time I hear about human trafficking, particularly the sex trafficking of minors, I become murderous with rage. My first reaction is to go buy a gun and seek out and destroy as many pimps and traffickers as I can.

That's probably not the healthiest reaction. So I've been trying to channel those energies into different directions, and I'm beginning to understand how I can be an abolitionist without killing the slave-traders. When we hosted a Human Trafficking 101 course at Heritage, Dan told us that the most important thing we can do to stop sex trafficking is to become sexually whole people who are aware of their sexual brokenness, and who are inviting God to heal them.

Sexually whole people don't have sex with prostitutes, and especially under-age prostitutes. Sexually whole people don't engage with pornography and supply money to the sex industry. Sexually whole people don't sexually abuse children. Sexually whole people don't create demand for these "services".

While I might find some dark joy in the deaths of pimps and traffickers, I know that new pimps and traffickers would arise to take their place. The only way to end sex trafficking and prostitution is to make it go out of business. The only way to make it go out of business is for me and you to become sexually whole people. The only way for us to become sexually whole people is to experience God's deep, transforming presence in the darkest places of our souls where our sexual brokenness lies hidden beneath layers of rationalization and disregard.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is the most important message in the world not because it's the only way for us to get to heaven when we die, but because it's the only message that carries with it the power to transform us from the inside out. The deep, transforming, presence of God, to which we have access through the blood of Jesus, is the answer to all of the evil on earth and to all of the evil within you.

Let's be clear: Human trafficking exists because there is a demand for it. The only way to shrink that demand is for humans, especially men, to encounter God in the deep places of their soul, and to be made new in the power of Christ. What can you do to help drive the sex trafficking industry out of business?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sex | So What?

For the past several days I've been posting excerpts from my sermon on sex, based on 1 Corinthians 6:12-20. In this text we see there are two cultural myths about sex: 1) I can do whatever I want with my body; and 2) Sex is just an appetite. There are also two biblical messages to counter those myths: 1) Your body is not your own. God bought it and moved in; and 2) Sex is the donation of your full humanity to another.

But, so what? What am I supposed to do about it? In this final post you'll find some thoughts on how to apply this passage to your life.


So what does all this mean? Well, let’s go back to the last sentence of our passage: Therefore honor God with your bodies.

This is the answer to all of your questions about sex: Does it honor God? Are you honoring God with your body?

When you have sex before marriage, you are disregarding God’s design for sex. You are not honoring him with your body. Does oral sex honor God? The answer is no, in case you were curious. Does masturbation honor God? No. Does any kind of sexual touching honor God? No. You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

But being a Christian is about so much more than not having sex before marriage. We talked about how sex is the donation of your full humanity to another. Well, there is a spiritual corollary to sex, something that is not a physical consummation with another human being, but a spiritual consummation with God. That act is worship.

Listen to Paul again. But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. We unite ourselves with Jesus in worship, and when we do, we not only give our full humanity to him, but we also give him our full hope for the future, hope for eternal life, for resurrection, and for heaven.

Uniting yourself with Jesus in spirit means giving him everything you are now and everything you hope to become in the future. It means not just giving your full humanity, but becoming fully human. Jesus was the only one of us whoever got this humanity thing right. He’s the only one who never screwed up. He’s the only one who never sinned. He is fully human. And guess what, despite what the DaVinci Code or the Gnostic Gospels would like to tell you, he never had sex.

You don’t have to have sex to be fully human. You don’t have to ever have sex to live a happy and fulfilled life. If that’s what you choose, you won’t be treated well, because our culture will not understand you. Even if that’s what you choose for a time, to not have sex until you get married—and I urge you to make that choice because it’s the only sexual choice you can make right now that you will never regret—but if you choose to not have sex until you get married you won’t be treated well. You know this. Our culture doesn’t understand that choice. Your abstinence will make others feel guilty and afraid. But I urge you to honor God with your bodies; and rather than becoming one flesh with someone else right now, become one spirit with Jesus.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sex | Biblical Message #1

When we read 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, we see two cultural myths about sex: 1) I can do whatever I want with my body; and 2) Sex is just an appetite. The biblical message that counters the second myth is: Sex is the donation of your full humanity to another. Now let's look at how Paul debunks the first myth.


Sex is not just an appetite, it is the donation of your full humanity to another. Now let’s debunk that first myth: I can do whatever I want with my body. Look back at our passage again. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

As it turns out, when you become a Christian, your body doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to God, and he has turned you into a house where he lives by his Holy Spirit. Your body is not your own. God bought it and moved in.

The implications of this reality are overwhelming, but let me just give you one: If you are a Christian, whenever you do anything, including sex of any kind, God is there. Now that might totally creep you out or freak you out, but understand this about God: God designed sex, but he is not sexual. God is what’s called supersexual, he is beyond sexuality.

You see, all the gods and goddesses of all the other ancient cultures were extremely sexual. They were dripping unhindered sexuality. Then the Israelites come along talking about this god called YHWH, and they never talked about him in sexual terms. He is beyond sexuality, yet he has given us this gift to be enjoyed according to his design, and not however we want. The bottom line is this: Christian, your body is not your own. God bought it with the blood and life of his son, and then he moved in in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Sex | Biblical Message #2

I've been sharing excerpts from my sermon for high school students about sex, some of which was influenced by a sermon from Tim Keller. Using 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 as my text, I've written about the two cultural myths about sex: 1) I can do whatever I want with my body; and 2) Sex is just an appetite. This post will lay out the biblical message that counters the second myth.


Sex is not just an appetite. That is such a low, degrading view of sex. Look at this passage again. Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”

Don’t get caught up by the word prostitute. In those days you were either married or you were a prostitute. Christianity was the first social movement, religion, or institution to ever say, “It’s okay to be single.”

But Paul is quoting the book of Genesis here, and he’s saying whenever you have sex with someone, you become one flesh with them. Well, what does that mean? Perhaps you’ve heard of the phrase “the beast with two backs”? Well, that’s not what it means. The word “flesh” can mean a couple of different things, and in this instance what it means is “embodied personhood”. It means “full humanity expressed in your body”.

Sex is not about becoming one body with your sexual partner, it’s about giving your full humanity to another. Sex is the donation of your full humanity to another. This is the biblical message that counters the cultural myth “sex is just an appetite.”

God designed sex to be the consummation of a host of commitments that you make to your spouse. It’s the last commitment, the one in which you physically live and embody all of those commitments—the social, the legal, the relational, the responsibility, the mental, the spiritual, and the emotional.

There is no such thing as casual sex. There is no such thing as sex with no strings. That’s the fantasy of a screenwriter. Sex without those commitments is dehumanizing. Casual sex makes you less human; it turns you into an object of another person’s lust. It is not embodied humanity, it is embodied pornography. It is false.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sex | Cultural Myth #2

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from my sermon about sex that I'll be preaching to high school students. Using 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 as my text, I wrote that the first cultural myth about sex is: I can do whatever I want with my body. Now let's look at the second myth.


The first myth about sex is: I can do whatever I want with my body. The second myth is in verse 13. You say, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food, and God will destroy them both.”

Now this one’s a little more complicated, so I’ll try not to get caught up in the details. Again, you’ve got the quotes, and this saying isn’t really about food. No, this myth says Sex is just an appetite. It’s just like hunger. When you get hungry, you eat food. Sex is the same way. When you get horny, you have sex. Simple as that.

The lie that our culture is telling you is this: You cannot be fulfilled in life without sex. A life without sex is like a life without food; you will waste away and die in about 6 weeks. You are a freak if you are a virgin.

This is probably a good time to tell you that God made sex. He designed it. God designed sex to be between a man and a woman who have committed themselves to each other socially, legally, relationally, responsibly, spiritually, mentally, and emotionally. Sex is the physical union that ties all of those commitments together. That’s why sex is sometimes called consummation, because the physical is the last of the commitments to be made, and it ties them all together.

So you are not a freak if you are a virgin. You’re smart, and you’re doing things in order. You’re not going to make the physical commitment before you’ve made the social, the legal, the relational, the responsibility, the spiritual, the mental, or the emotional one.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Sex | Cultural Myth #1

Earlier this week our student ministry director, Runnin' Adam Walters, (I just made up that nickname, by the way) asked if I would be interested in talking to the high school students about sex on Sunday night. For those of you in ministry, you understand that talking to high school students about sex is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing you'll be asked to do. It's easy because you don't have to worry about keeping their attention. It's difficult because 1) their culture is always talking about sex; 2) they're always talking about sex; 3) they're always thinking about sex; 4) they're having sex (sorry parents); 5) they're horribly insecure about sex; and 6) almost nothing they hear about sex is true. So, naturally, I agreed. At the very least I'll get a few blog posts out of it.

My text is 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, which reads quite nicely in the updated NIV. By the way, did you know that the NIV has been updated? True story.

Anyway, I'll skip the introduction of my sermon and all my ridiculous jokes, and post the bit about the first cultural myth about sex.


Our culture tells a lot of myths about sex, and we find two of them in this passage in 1 Corinthians. The first myth is right at the top, in verse 12. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but I will not be mastered by anything.

Do you see how “I have the right to do anything” is in quotes? That means that this was a common expression among the people that Paul was writing this letter to. It was part of their theology. He’s quoting them. “I have the right to do anything.” In other words, “I can do whatever I want with my body.” It’s my body, who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do with it. This is the first myth about sex: I can do whatever I want with my body.

It’s funny, because if you think about, when it comes to sex, we humans haven’t really changed much in the past 2,000 years. We’re still saying the same thing the ancient Corinthians were saying about sex. “I have the right to do anything. I can do whatever I want with my body.”

Let’s think about this for a second. Can you really do whatever you want with your body? I’d like to be able to fly. Can you fly? No? Me neither. So I can’t do whatever I want with my body.

But, you might say, we’re talking about sexually. Oh, okay. So you can have sex with whoever you want? Oh, only if they’re willing. Otherwise it’s a horrible crime, right? And there are other things you can’t do that we won’t even mention, but needless to say, you can’t do whatever you want with your body. You don’t have the right to do anything. There are limitations.

Paul’s response to this quote is interesting. He basically says, “Oh really? Well let’s assume for a moment that you’re right. You can do whatever you want with your body, but not everything is good for you. Not everything is beneficial to you. Not everything moves you forward as a person. You may think you want that, but then after you do it, you will immediately regret that decision.”

He goes on to say, “I will not be mastered by anything.” This means that the more you do whatever you want with your body, the more you will be unable to stop doing it. The more you have sex with whomever and however and whenever and wherever you want, the more you become a slave to sex. Your sexual desires will rule over you, and even when you want to do something else you won’t be able to.

Friday, December 3, 2010

God's Loving Presence

This will be the last post of my journey through Dick Staub's book, The Culturally Savvy Christian. This book has been very formative for me (we even got a kind comment from the author on one of the posts!), and I hope that you go out and buy yourself a copy of it--or you can join our life group and go through it with us for free, because one couple generously offered to buy everyone a copy! The last two posts have been about God's deep and transforming presence, and this one is about God's loving presence.

I've blogged and preached extensively (for me, anyway) about agape love--a love that lays down its life. This is God's kind of love, and by this love we are transformed. We cannot be made like Christ simply by accumulating knowledge and experience; we become like Christ because we experience the depth of God's transforming love in our souls. "Soul wellness is ours only when the indwelling God, whose love is eternally available and utterly reliable, sustains us." (121)

"Only those who experience God's loving presence in the deepest places of their soul can be a loving presence in the souls of others. When touched by God, our deepest wounds can become our deepest well of compassion for the sorrows of others." (124) If we allow him, God can transform our pain and weakness into sources of compassion, empathy, and wisdom for our brothers and sisters. It is not a question of can God, but will you let God. His presence is liquid, seeking its own level in the deepest, darkest caverns of our hearts where the ground is both parched and fallow from the lack of water and light. His presence brings refreshment, healing, and eventually a harvest to the deep wounds of our souls. In this way we are transformed, not in manners of behavior, but in modes of being. "Our transformation is the result of God's presence in our life, and the evidence of God's presence is our embodiment of God's love." (125)

If you want to transform the culture, you yourself must be transformed by the rich, loving presence of God. "Today's Christians are often a mirror image of popular culture, wanting to transform the world without being transformed, wanting to prove Christianity intellectually without displaying the love that is the proof we are Jesus' disciples. The only way to enrich our culture is to be enriched personally, which comes when we experience God deeply and then embody God's loving presence. ...The culturally savvy Christian's goal is to embody God's loving, transforming presence in the world." (125)

I don't know about you, but I want to be that kind of Christian. I've only got one shot at this, and the greatest terror that haunts me is to think that I might go to my grave having lived a mediocre life characterized by the capitulation to popular culture rather than the embodiment of God's agape presence, by the stale shallowness of mindless distraction rather than the healing, soul-level transformation that comes from experiencing God deeply. True transformation--not just behavior modification--begins by experiencing God in the deep recesses of your inner being, and slowly but steadily grows upward and outward. The same is true, I suppose, of popular culture.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

God's Transforming Presence

Yesterday, while blogging through Dick Staub’s book The Culturally Savvy Christian, I wrote about the deep presence of God, and how we will only become deeply well when we experience the depth of God’s presence. Many of us seek to transform our culture, but we ourselves have not been transformed by God. In the next chapter of his book, Staub writes powerfully about the transforming presence of God.

Staub talks about his own journey with God, beginning, as many of us do, at a place of youthful zeal to transform the world. However, he eventually realized, “God wasn’t interested in transforming me so that I could transform the world; God wanted to transform me so that I could become fully human.” (92-3) The goal of transformation is to become fully human—that is, to be restored to the creature that God originally intended us to be, before we chose to rebel against him and exchanged our full humanity for a false divinity. The only one of us who has been fully human since Eden is, of course, Jesus.

“God’s transforming presence will change us, not so we can transform the world, but so we can experience God’s presence more deeply and be restored to God’s image more completely.” (93) The first thing that was ever true of you is that you were created in God’s image. Your being created in the image of God predates, and runs deeper, than your sin. This is why God is committed to your restoration, not your destruction. He wants to make you again what he made you before; and we know what that looks like because he sent his son into the world to show us not simply himself, but also ourselves. “Jesus did not come to make us better; he came to make us new.” (94)

“God’s original purpose is not our salvation or the evangelization of others; it is that we glorify God by reflecting God’s image through expression of the spiritual, intelligent, creative, moral, and relational capacities uniquely imprinted on humans.” (95) You are an image bearer of the one true God. Broken? Yes. Cracked? Yes. Beyond repair? No. God’s will for your life is not simply that you tell others about Jesus. (Though that is a part of it.) God’s will for your life is that you become fully human, that is, that you fully reflect his image in you by expressing those qualities that are unique to God’s image bearers: spirituality, intelligence, creativity, morality, relationship, and art. That we can sing and dance and pray to God and understand his ways and choose to lay down our lives for one another is truly remarkable! This is the image of God in you. These are the things that will become more evident in you as you are transformed by God’s deep presence.

Using Romans 12:1-3 as his guide, Staub lays out a process for the transformation to full humanity in three steps:

  1. “Restore God to the central place in your life by presenting your body as a living sacrifice.” (96)
    • “It is impossible to nurture God’s presence or to experience a personal transformation to our full humanity without acknowledging God’s centrality in each moment of each hour of each day.” (97)
  2. “Stop conforming to the world.” (97)
    • “Our minds have been squeezed into the mold of the thought patterns, beliefs, values, and behaviors of our fallen culture. …As we resist conformity, we will become highly sensitized to culture, recognizing the superficial, mindless diversions and seeing through the shallowness of celebrity.” (99)
  3. “Renew your mind.” (100)
    • “Most of us cannot recognize the contrast between the ideas and values that dominate our culture and those consistent with our faith, because our primary education has been in the ideas and values of our age and we remain illiterate about Jesus’ expectations for our life. …All the excitement about new paradigms, enthusiasm for relevance, and the sincere desire to transform church and culture will amount to nothing unless they are accompanied by the deep faith that produces transformed people.” (101-2)

Transformation is not about minding your manners or managing your sin or keeping all the mandates. God’s deep, loving presence transforms us into the image of Jesus, the one who was fully human, who perfectly reflected the image of his father.

In order to transform church and culture, you must be (and be being) transformed in God’s presence. He is with you every moment, and in every moment you can offer your body to him as a sacrifice that remains alive; in this way you will become fully alive! The world has a pattern, a mold, that it has squeezed you into. Break free from that mold by living in the presence of God, talking with him, hearing from him, obeying him. And, lastly, your mind must become new again. You must learn to discern the truth, because this culture is full of appealing and delicious lies.